Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New Year, Fresh Starts—Household Organizing

Paperback and Kindle editions
There is something about a new year that always inspires. No matter how many times I fail to achieve my previous New Year’s resolutions, I’m always happy to try again! With the new house getting closer to completion, my annual resolutions about organizing are taking on a whole other dimension.

I vow that I will not move a single thing into the new house that doesn’t have a purpose and a designated place to go. None of that “Oh, I’ll sort through this box later.” business! No. I’m determined to get off on the right foot in the new house.

Toward that end I’ve been reading about household management and organizing.
There’s a lot in print—I guess we must be a pretty messy culture! The books seem to settle into themes of how to organize your things, how to organize and be more efficient with your time, and how to maintain organizational systems once they are set up.

There is also the theme of taking a Zen attitude about clutter in order to free yourself up for more worthwhile endeavors. Not that I don’t see some value in that, but I’m still in the camp of those who haven’t yet given up on being organized. The book Absolutely Organize Your Family by Debbie Lillard has been a helpful guide to how I can achieve organizational nirvana in the new house! This is the 2nd or 3rd book Ms. Lillard has written about organizing, but I chose it because it specifically addresses families.

The book is written around the categories of time, belongings, and space. It includes plenty of “how to’s” but grounds them in a solid philosophy about why it is important to be organized and when to let it go. The author never seems to place being organized above doing what is good for her children and also doesn’t hesitate to urge the reader to look inward to see where disorganization starts. In other words, she reminds us that the apple often doesn’t fall far from the tree. (Guilty as charged!)

Part I: Race Against Time presents a step-by-step approach to time management. I really appreciate her advice to practice “daily conditioning” (aka developing routines) to stay on top of how you spend your time, noting that this helps to bring serenity to the household. She adds that routines also help children feel safe and secure, and when they elevate into family rituals, routines serve to strengthen the bonds between parents and children and add meaning to family life. I like it.
"Being organized...means being efficient, organized with your time, getting your priorities straight, and creating balance in your life."
Part II: No More Scategories tackles the subject of “stuff” and what to do with it. The author recommends ways to deal with specific categories of kid’s stuff such as toys, photos, collections, books, and more. Her advice to involve your child in the decision-making about what to keep and what to discard is both respectful of the attachment they often have to their things, and also educational in that it helps a child learn to prioritize and make choices.

Part III: Conquer the Space Invaders displays the author’s firsthand knowledge of messy backpacks, lockers, and desks, and offers tips to get them under control! What I really found useful though is the section on how best to arrange a child’s room so that it will be easy(ier) to keep tidy and serve as a comforting retreat that truly reflects his/her interests and talents. Too many times parents get carried away with decorating their child’s room (especially younger children) based on a fantasy the parent has about childhood that doesn’t actually take into account what the child needs and want.

Children and family life in general present particular organizational issues, and apart from just the sheer volume of stuff that kids have, teaching them how to organize themselves, their things, and their time is a critical life lesson. Doing chores, too, is an important part of developing character and discipline as well as keeping an organizational system going. Anything with tips to help me get Miss K onboard with this is invaluable. This book is all that and more!

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